19 April 1996

Nothing to beat

good decisions

PURCHASED feeds are often used as substitutes for grazing management effort that would ensure efficient use of the grass available, claims Signet consultant Steven Johnston.

He warns that it is too late to make grazing decisions when the sward has grown out of control or cattle are hungry.

Maintaining sward height depends on increasing or decreasing the area available by varying the stocking rate as the season dictates.

Tight stocking

"Stocking rate must be tight in early season with up to 10, 300kg stores a hectare – 3t liveweight a hectare. Excess grass area can be cut for silage or used to graze sheep before they go to higher land," he says.

Turning out early may also prevent grass getting away from stock in spring, he adds. Maintaining sward height helps achieve a balance between under-stocking which encourages seed heads and over-stocking when low grass height reduces animal feed intakes.

Mr Johnston cites Hillsborough research on autumn-born animals which shows that in their first grazing season grass needed to be 9cm (3.6in) high for optimum performance. Feeding concentrates failed to improve animal performance provided sward height was maintained. &#42